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DE BEERS - PROSPECTING RIGHT APPLICATION - DMR Ref: NW 30/5/1/1/3/2/1 11780 EM PR
In November 2015 De Beers Consolidated (Pty) Ltd applied for Environmental Authorisation for purposes of prospecting for kimberlite (potential diamond bearing rock) in the areas of Swartruggens, Mabaalstad/Koster and Groot Marico within the highly sensitive Groot Marico river catchment.
The application area lies immediately upstream of the town of Groot Marico and the adjoining township of Reboile, both of which are dependent on the Groot Marico river for water. The hub of tourism and eco-tourism lies in and around the area with many guest houses and private game farms.
Mmutlwa wa Noko works to maintain the integrity of the Groot Marico river and catchment for humanitarian and ecological benefit and preservation. For this reason we opposed this application.
On 23 February 2017 I&APs (Interested and Affected Parties) were informed by Golder that Environmental Authorisation for the purposes of prospecting had been granted to De Beers. The deadline date for submission of appeals in terms of the internal appeal process under regulation R993 to the Appeal Directorate of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) was 15 March 2017. Mmutlwa wa Noko submitted a comprehensive appeal which was directed at the Groot Marico portion of the application.
Over 140 appeals were submitted in total.
In December 2017 the Appeals Directorate of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) informed I&APs that the Minister of Environmental Affairs had dismissed the appeals and that I&APs had 180 days to lodge review proceedings against this decision.
On 6 June 2018 Mmutlwa wa Noko launched judicial review proceedings in the North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, in terms of section 6(1) of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) against the granting of the Environmental Authorisation over the farm portions of the Groot Marico area and cited the respondents as follows:
First Respondent - Minister of Environmental Affairs
Second Respondent - The Regional Manager: Mineral Regulation
Third Respondent - De Beers Consolidated Mines (Pty) Ltd
De Beers did not oppose. The Minister of Environmental Affairs and the Regional Manager: Mineral Regulations (Department of Mineral Resources) both opposed.
On 23 October 2018 our attorney was informed by the State Attorney that De Beers was excluding from their application the areas of Modderfontein, Vergenoeg and Wonderfontein and also that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) was unconditionally withdrawing their opposition in the matter.
On 25 October 2018 the State Attorney filed a Notice of Withdrawal for DMR. At this stage no Notice of Withdrawal has been submitted for the Minister, but the Minister's office has not submitted an answering affidavit within the time allowed by the High Court Rules. Accordingly the matter has been set down on the unopposed motion roll in order for a judge to officially set aside the granting of the Environmental Authorisation on the first available court date which is 6 May 2019.
On 6 May 2019, in the Pretoria High Court, Judge Strydom set aside the granting of the authorisation by the Regional Manager DMR as well as the decision of the Minister DEA.
This means that there will be no prospecting or mining by De Beers in the above mentioned application area within the Groot Marico river catchment and accordingly the application had the desired effect.
Our heartfelt thanks to our attorney Jerome Levitz of Fluxman's and our counsel Advocate Andrew Kemack SC of Sandown Chambers as well as to Advocate Peter Lazarus SC of Sandown Chambers.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GROOT MARICO RIVER CATCHMENT
The Groot Marico catchment is a key strategic water resource for North West province. It is a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area (NFEPA) as identified by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and others. It is also of international significance as the Groot Marico River provides Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, with water, and ultimately becomes the Limpopo River which flows through 4 countries - South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
The Groot Marico River, which is fed by dolomitic eyes, is one of the last remaining surface flowing fresh water resources in North West. The waters of the Upper Groot Marico River - across which the PR application falls - is so pure that it is safe to drink directly from the river. It is one of the few remaining free-flowing stretches of river in South Africa. The river has become a flagship river of national importance due to its good condition, high biodiversity and cultural value. The Marico catchment boosts the flow of the river to the extent that it provides water to many thousands, including traditional communities, farms, restituted lands and game farms, including North West's premier Big 5 Reserve 'Madikwe'. In the last 4 years North West Province has been in the grip of extreme drought and was declared a drought disaster area. While the neighbouring towns received water deliveries by tanker the Upper Groot Marico was never short of water so its water is of great significance.